Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#1
In a recent discussion a beta reader made the comment that my use of the Karambit knife needed more history and background before my readers would understand its significance.  In the novel the knife is something you earned when being truly included in the Private military company. A, "you're part of the family" type gift, but that info doesn't come till later in the book, and the history of the knife isn't currently in the book at all.

 The first time I discuss it is In the second chapter of Violence of Action, Abby showed her claws in the below passage.

"He suddenly rushed me. His hands were on my arm rests jerking me around to face him as he glared down into my eyes before I could react,  “We could have this conversation in a lot less friendly way,” he spat, breath smelling of the bad booze and poor oral hygiene.
“That would be an unfortunate conversation, I’m sure.” I replied coolly and glanced down at the hooked blade of my Karambit knife positioned just under his crotch."
The Karambit is believed to have originally been weaponized among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra where, according to folklore, it was inspired by the claws of a tiger.
The short Filipino Karambit has found some favor in the West because such proponents allege the biomechanics of the weapon allow for more powerful cutting strokes and painful "ripping" wounds, and because its usability is hypothesized as more intuitive, but more difficult to master than a classic knife.

This Beta reader believes that this description should be, in some way, included in this passage. I am thinking it should come out more naturally in the story telling. What do you think?

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#2
deacongray Wrote: In a recent discussion a beta reader made the comment that my use of the Karambit knife needed more history and background before my readers would understand its significance.  In the novel the knife is something you earned when being truly included in the Private military company. A, "you're part of the family" type gift, but that info doesn't come till later in the book, and the history of the knife isn't currently in the book at all.

 The first time I discuss it is In the second chapter of Violence of Action, Abby showed her claws in the below passage.

"He suddenly rushed me. His hands were on my arm rests jerking me around to face him as he glared down into my eyes before I could react,  “We could have this conversation in a lot less friendly way,” he spat, breath smelling of the bad booze and poor oral hygiene.
“That would be an unfortunate conversation, I’m sure.” I replied coolly and glanced down at the hooked blade of my Karambit knife positioned just under his crotch."
The Karambit is believed to have originally been weaponized among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra where, according to folklore, it was inspired by the claws of a tiger.
The short Filipino Karambit has found some favor in the West because such proponents allege the biomechanics of the weapon allow for more powerful cutting strokes and painful "ripping" wounds, and because its usability is hypothesized as more intuitive, but more difficult to master than a classic knife.

This Beta reader believes that this description should be, in some way, included in this passage. I am thinking it should come out more naturally in the story telling. What do you think?
You need a less insane beta reader my man.
Not every little thing needs to be explained in a story, especially something as basic and throwaway as a fucking knife. Unless he also wants you to add an explanation regarding why people wear socks and hats, and the history behind, and their cultural origin.

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#3
IMO, when you have a situation that an ordinary reader might not know what is a "karambit knife".
I would prefer a simple description of its shape and its function, simply to prevent me going all confused or distracted from the story by go google about the word.

As I believed, your quote appeared in 2nd chapter of the story, probably that wasn't a right moment to do too much explanation about the history of that particular knife.
But I would appreciate if you wrote it adding the word "curved" or "Shape of a claw". That would be enough. Then move on with the story. 

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#6
This isn't the scene for an explanation about the knife.

Because depending on the scene, one can delve into a bit of world information.

However, I say this because the scene you are writing is a scene with momentum, you want to get to the height of it and then slow it down naturally or gradually to where it needs to be for the story. And world building information/background information inserted into a scene like that ruins pacing.

Pacing is something people need to be aware of in that exposition has a habit of out right stopping the flow of a story. 

Now do I know what that kind of knife is, I do not. But I can look if up of it is a real knife. A quick bit of natural description like you wrote is fine. Anything else can wait if it is worth mentioning.

So you are correct. World building for the most part should occur naturally. Not everything mentioned in a story needs an explanation right away. A well-written story doesn't do that.

Now, sometimes you can wait too long when it comes to an explanation. And to really determine that is to read the entire story first and figure out if it is the case.

Luckily, you don't have to do everything your beta reader says. They are just there to advise.

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#7
The "explain first" rule only applies if the characters are using the items to solve problems. For example, if the knife could cut through steel, you would reveal or foreshadow that before having the characters cut their way out of a prison cell. That way, readers won't feel like you're inventing solutions on the spot.

This sounds like it's mostly a normal knife though, so I wouldn't worry about it.  

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#8
the question that should be asked is: does the Karambit knife add anything to the story or important later on or just another prop?

From what I could tell it adds to the world building and character development, so a further explanation should be given to the reader. Additionally, if this weapon is going to be "chekhov's gun" the big payoff is the reader leans of the significance of the weapon. 

For example when we learn about the Irgun knife in The Chronicles of Riddick film. The build up is when we learn that the Necro warlord  Zhylaw ordered the genocide of the Furyans. And the payoff is when Riddick uses the knife, a Furyan weapon, to kill that very same warlord. 

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#9
Eh, I'm of two minds.

I'd say if you want to use the word 'karambit' and carry along the connotations that come with that word, then yeah, having an explanation somewhere might be useful. Preferably in a non-action scene. I wouldn't put it here because it would stall the pacing super hard. But you don't really need to use the name karambit - you've already said it's a 'hooked knife', which is enough to give a basic explanation to the reader.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you just want to have cool hooked knifes, you don't need to use that name; leave it alone, or make up your own. But if that name and what it means is important, then giving a splash of backstory will help it make sense for people who don't know.

It's the difference between saying someone's playing a violin and saying someone's playing a Stradivarius. One's generic, the other's specific, and it'll add extra meaning. If that meaning is important to the story, you either need to pick a target audience that'll definitely understand - give up on people who aren't knife enthusiasts or willing to google words - or give an explanation, to keep from losing a general audience.

OTOH, if it's not important, throwing in extra details adds extra noise to the noise/signal ratio. In that case, using something generic would help keep things focused.

So I guess my answer is... is the meaning of 'karambit' important to your story? If so, are you writing for an audience that already knows, or are you trying to reach a more general audience? Depending on how you answer those, my answer to you would change.

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#10
Honestly, the knife can be explained further into the story. The character wasn't given the knife during the story and it would make sense to hold off explaining it's significance until it matters. It's ok to let readers wonder about things. Not everything needs to be laid out as soon as it shows up. A short hooked knife is good enough to get the point across. 

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#11

deacongray Wrote: In a recent discussion a beta reader made the comment that my use of the Karambit knife needed more history and background before my readers would understand its significance.  In the novel the knife is something you earned when being truly included in the Private military company. A, "you're part of the family" type gift, but that info doesn't come till later in the book, and the history of the knife isn't currently in the book at all.

 The first time I discuss it is In the second chapter of Violence of Action, Abby showed her claws in the below passage.

"He suddenly rushed me. His hands were on my arm rests jerking me around to face him as he glared down into my eyes before I could react,  “We could have this conversation in a lot less friendly way,” he spat, breath smelling of the bad booze and poor oral hygiene.
“That would be an unfortunate conversation, I’m sure.” I replied coolly and glanced down at the hooked blade of my Karambit knife positioned just under his crotch."
The Karambit is believed to have originally been weaponized among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra where, according to folklore, it was inspired by the claws of a tiger.
The short Filipino Karambit has found some favor in the West because such proponents allege the biomechanics of the weapon allow for more powerful cutting strokes and painful "ripping" wounds, and because its usability is hypothesized as more intuitive, but more difficult to master than a classic knife.

This Beta reader believes that this description should be, in some way, included in this passage. I am thinking it should come out more naturally in the story telling. What do you think?
I also believe your reader is perhaps a little too demanding. Giving all the easter eggs at a reader's convenience is not your job. 


But like Shomin said, for the sake of tight content, saving from any confusion, a little description of the knife would prolly be appropriate. I won't presume to write the bit, you are far more apt than I. But a passing descriptor would serve, I think. Then later at the more pivotal moment the historical and personal importance of that knife brings fuller life - even amplifying that earlier moment.

My thoughts anyway.

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#12

WriterL Wrote: Honestly, the knife can be explained further into the story. The character wasn't given the knife during the story and it would make sense to hold off explaining it's significance until it matters. It's ok to let readers wonder about things. Not everything needs to be laid out as soon as it shows up. A short hooked knife is good enough to get the point across.
I generally agree with this, however, by naming the knife, it seems to attribute greater import or message, sort of begging for info. I agree, author doesn't owe anyone answers at their convenience. That by itself means I agree w you. 


Maybe referring to "a curved blade with mean intent" or some such - then the later fuller story fleshes out its importance. A thought.

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#13

Kennit Wrote: You need a less insane beta reader my man.
Not every little thing needs to be explained in a story, especially something as basic and throwaway as a fucking knife. Unless he also wants you to add an explanation regarding why people wear socks and hats, and the history behind, and their cultural origin.


When I was young, I had a friend who read over my story and complained that all of my characters were walking around naked, because I hadn't described the entire ensemble of every bit player who walked through the scene.

Re: Karambit Knife- A debate with my Beta reader

#18
In my opinion, if you're going to refer to something using real-world cultural names then you have already shown significance to said item for your character. Otherwise, why would your character specifically mention the type of their knife? They wouldn't unless the type specifically matters to the character.  This is what is causing confusion.

 Your readers are noticing you took the time to specifically name the cultural type of knife but they don't know why that's important to the story or your character.  

So, in my opinion you need to have a scene previously introducing the significance of the item to the reader if you want to keep it in.  I would not add it to this scene for reasons stated above by others. Something small and simple Like a Small Flashback of them receiving it from their Unit or the like.

Otherwise, you need to Use a Basic Descriptor for the Knife Like "Claw-like" or "Curved" ect As others have suggested Above.

Being specific doesn't always mean you're being more detailed or providing clarity sadly.  Oftentimes, as we see with this example, it causes a point of tension for the reader where one need not be.  Which is usually the opposite of what the author is intending by providing specific details. 

Just my 2 cents,

I also think the type of knife adds ambiance to your story if the reader is armed with that info prior personally.

Cheers